At Last – a quick guide to Buddhist Terms and Symbols

If you’re headed to Bhutan any time soon (and why wouldn’t you be?), it’s useful to have some terminology and understanding of Buddhist symbols under your belt. Below is a quick summary of key terms and symbols.


Dharma = the teachings of the Buddha
Dorji = thunderbolt scepter
Druk= dragon
Chorten = a stupa where sacred relics are enshrined
Bon = precursor to Buddhism, an animistic religion
Dzong = fortress or a castle
Kanjur= the translated words of the Buddha
Lama= spiritual teacher
Rinpoche= means “precious jewel,” a term used to refer to a highly learned teacher
Stupa = structure built to house religious relics
Tenpa= Buddha
Thanka= sacred or religious paintings or scroll
Trulku= term used for an enlightened or a highly realized being


Precious Umbrella (duk)

Precious Umbrella


Preserves beings from illness and negative forces

Endless Knot (pelgibeu)

Endless Knot


Represents the union of wisdom and compassion

White Conch (dungkar)

White Conch


Represents the melodious sound of the dharma teachings

Lotus Flower (pema)

Lotus Flower


Symbolizes the purity of mind, body and speech

Golden Fish (sernga)

Golden Fish


Represents a state of fearlessness without drowning in the ocean of suffering

Golden Wheel (khorlo)

Golden Wheel


Symbolizes the wheel of the Buddha’s doctrine

Vase of Treasure (bumpa)

Vase of Treasure


Represents long life, wealth and prosperity

Victory Banner (gyeltshen)

Victory Banner


Represents the victory of the Buddhist doctrine over harmful forces